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Bill Belichick takes shot at Wes Welker for knocking out Aqib Talib

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick leaves

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick leaves after losing to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game in Denver. (Jan. 19, 2014) Credit: AP

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - In a calm and steady voice, Bill Belichick delivered a shot that reverberated around the NFL.

Without any warning or any coaxing from the media, the almost-always-bland Patriots coach made it clear Monday that he wasn't pleased with Wes Welker's open-field pick on cornerback Aqib Talib during Sunday's AFC Championship Game in Denver. The second-quarter hit by Welker, a former Patriot, was so hard that it knocked the unsuspecting Talib out of the Broncos' 26-16 win with a knee injury.

"I went back and watched it, which I didn't have a chance to do yesterday," Belichick said during his opening statement in Foxborough, Mass. "I think it was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib, no attempt to get open.

"I'll let the league handle the discipline on that play. It's not for me to decide, but it's one of the worst plays I've seen. That's all I'm going to say about that."

Broncos coach John Fox stressed that he has "a lot of respect for Bill" but initially declined to address Belichick's comments because he hadn't watched game video yet.

"I haven't seen his comments," Fox said. "I don't feel that I can comment on that other than I know that Wes Welker is a great player, high integrity. We were not doing anything with intent."

Fox went on to say that rules changes have encouraged "quite a bit" of change in the passing game across the league. "The umpire is in that area -- it's a pretty crowded area -- so I think offenses have tried to exploit that," he said before noting that the Patriots are guilty of the same practice. "We're not the only team, by any stretch. In fact, our opponent Sunday did the same thing. All in all, I think the passing game in general, not just crossing routes, stepped up in our league."

Fox also denied that Welker wasn't trying to get open, as Belichick stated.

"I'll say that I think on most pass routes that we run, there is an intent to get open," Fox said.

After Sunday's game, Welker denied trying to hurt Talib, the Patriots' top cornerback, who will miss Sunday's Pro Bowl. He will be replaced by the Jets' Antonio Cromartie, the second alternate.

"It was kind of a rub play and I was trying to get him to go over the top and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath, and you know, [we] just kind of collided," said Welker, who spent six seasons with the Patriots under Belichick before signing with Denver this past offseason. "It wasn't like I was trying to hit him or anything like that. I hope he's OK. He's a great player and a big part of their defense."

Only two Broncos players -- Julius Thomas and Danny Trevathan -- were made available to the media Monday. Neither had much of a reaction to Belichick's bold words.

Thomas said he was unaware that Belichick had called out Welker. "I have got to do a better job of staying on the latest news," he said with a laugh.

Like his coach, Thomas defended Welker's character, saying: "I've known Wes for a while now and he's definitely not that kind of guy. Things happen in football and sometimes people get hurt, but I don't believe Wes would intentionally try to hurt anybody out there."

Notes & quotes: Running back Knowshon Moreno is day-to-day after X-rays on his ribs were negative, Fox said . . . Cornerback Tony Carter was evaluated during the game for concussion-like symptoms, but Fox said, "I think he had a pinched nerve. He's fine."

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